There are many ways of shooting and editing time-lapses. To give the best results, the best way is shooting still RAW files with a DSLR camera and processing them as an Image Sequence using photo or video editing software.
I personally shoot my RAW files with a Canon 5D Mark II and use Lightroom 4, LRTimelapse and Quicktime Pro 7 softwares for my basic workflow. Other softwares like After Effects CS6, Photoshop CS6 can be used when I need more advanced edits.
LRTimelapse is a tool for time lapse editing that works with Lightroom. It allows to edit metadata info between keyframes, which is useful for smoothing transitions between frames and reducing flickering.
Once I captured my footage with my camera, I will generally process my time lapses through the following basic workflow (additional steps may be needed depending of the footage).
1. Import the Raw files into a Temporary folder, where I keep all my unprocessed work
2. Import this folder into Lightroom 4
3. Open the folder into LRTimelapse and follow the steps up to Keyframe selection.
4. Switch to Lightroom and edit the keyframes like you would normally do for photo editing. Save Metadata info for those Keyframes.
5. If the file needs some minor editing to be used as Commercial Use (removing/hiding small logos), I use the Adjustment Brush with lower Clarity and Sharpness to blur the logo. If the file has larger trademarks, I would remove them using After Effects or Photoshop once the video file is generated and stabilized.
6. Back to LRTimelapse – Click “Reload” so LRTimelapse can read the files you have just saved in Lightroom and follow again the steps for the transitions between keyframes and deflickering. Save and close LRTimelapse
7. Back to Lightroom – Select all files (Command+A in Mac) and Reload the Metadata files. At this stage, Lightroom will read the new metadata that will include the transition of your keyframe editing throughout the timelapse and should be clean of flickering (i.e. LRTimelapse will have made minor exposure compensations between each frames to get rid of the flickering)
8. Export the files with Long Edge of 4096 for 4K footage, or 1080 on short edge if I only do a 1080p video
9. Then, I use Quicktime 7 to render the Jpeg files using “Open Image Sequence” and exporting as a Photo-JPEG clip. I prefer doing the rendering using Quicktime 7 instead of direct rendering into Lightroom as it is quick and allows me to re-render quickly if I need to remove a frame from the sequence (e.g. if someone stand in front of the camera for 1 or 2 frames)
10. If I get a shaky movie (hyperlapse or due to wind effect on the camera), I use at this stage After Effects to stabilize the file. If I anticipate I would definitely need stabilization, I export the files (step 8) at a larger definition to allow cropping at stabilization stage
11. Delete Temp Jpeg files
12. Rename and move the Lightroom Raw files into an archive folder
13. Copy the final clip to “Processed clips” folder for storage, to a Folder for files to be uploaded to Stock agencies using Picworkflow, and to a folder for files to be uploaded to my site, Time-lapses.com
During Time-Lapse workshops that I provide, I realized that although this process can be a bit confusing at the first time, it is relatively easy for photographers, but it can be a lot more complex for people who are “only” videographer as this workflow is based on photography editing rather than footage editing. It is also possible to produce time lapse videos directly from footage, but the results are not as good, especially if you want to “push the pixels” in your editing.
You are welcome to post your workflow to the comment section if you do have a different one.
Fototrav is a French stock photographer who has been living in Asia since 2005, from China, Thailand, and soon to be based in Vietnam. His stock footage is mainly composed of time lapse videos (in 1080p and 4K formats) produced with high resolution photographs.